BAGO, Myanmar (AFP) – Surging floodwaters have killed at least 10 people and forced tens of thousands from their homes across swathes of Myanmar, a government official said on Sunday (July 29) as more heavy monsoon rain battered the region.
Vast areas of farmland have been submerged by muddy water stretching to the horizon, with only the rooftops of some houses visible.
Some stranded people were plucked from the churning waters by rescuers in boats, while volunteers used rafts made from barrels and pieces of wood.
Other flood victims waded through waist-deep water to escape, carrying children on their shoulders while trying to keep precious belongings out of the water.
“There have been 10 people killed by the floods,” a Ministry of Social Welfare official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that the figure included three soldiers whose deaths were confirmed on Sunday. “There are more than 54,000 displaced people affected by the flooding around the country.”
Evacuation orders had been issued in several areas, while some 163 camps have been set up for displaced people in southern, eastern and central parts of the country.
“There are normally floods, but not like this year. This year is the worst ever,” said Myint Myint Than, one of the hundreds taking refuge in a shelter in Bago.
Others are holding firm, refusing to leave their flooded homes in spite of the warnings from authorities.
“I’m not going to the shelter yet because some shelters don’t have any places left. But if the flooding gets any worse than this, I will have to escape,” Khin Mar Yee told AFP through the upper window of her submerged house.
The floods in Myanmar come as a particularly heavy monsoon continues to pummel the region, bringing downpours that contributed to the collapse of a dam last week in Laos, which left scores dead or missing.
Myanmar is hit by severe flooding every year and climate scientists in 2015 ranked it top of a global list of nations hardest hit by extreme weather.
That year more than 100 people died in floods that also displaced hundreds of thousands across the country.
Myanmar's worst natural disaster of recent times was Cyclone Nargis, which lashed huge stretches of the country's coast, leaving at least 138,000 dead or missing in May 2008.